Curated Marketplaces

Stephanie Tilenius, who is an EIR at Kleiner Perkins, wrote an interesting post on curated marketplaces last week. She mentions our portfolio companies Lending Club, Etsy, and Kickstarter in her post.

Stephanie argues that the old rules of building marketplaces, that led to big businesses at eBay (where she worked) and Amazon, are giving way to a new set of rules. This line, in particular, got my attention:

Consumers now demand beautifully designed and curated experiences, especially in a mobile-only marketplace.

I agree with Stephanie that marketplaces need to be simple, beautiful, and easy to use on mobile in order to succeed in the world we live in now.

We have a lot of marketplaces in our portfolio. I think they may be the single largest category of investments that we make. They are the commerce instantiation of our large networks investment thesis. So we talk and think a lot about them.

There is a tension between curation and being open to all comers. Lending Club curates its market by limiting borrowers to those with sufficient credit rating. That provides benefit to the lenders on the platform and has led to relatively low default rates over the years. Kickstarter states that "We never curate projects" but they do have guidelines on what can be posted on Kickstarter and what cannot. Etsy doesn't "curate" either but they do have guidelines on what can be posted in an Etsy shop, and those guidelines were changed last week to make Etsy open to a wider range of sellers.

Marketplaces can work in a highly curated model or a wide open model. Stephanie's post suggests to me that marketplaces are moving to a more curated model in order to become more user friendly (in many ways, not just on mobile). I think entrepreneurs need to be careful not to curate too much because you lose the power of the peer network, open Internet model that has proven to be so potent and disruptive over the years.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Julien

    What’s the difference between a perfect search/ranking algorithm and curation? Manual curation does not scale very well: the effort to add one more item to the marketplace is the same as it is to add the first one.However, if the marketplace uses a very good ranking algorithm, using many different and meaningful signals, I believe a marketplace can achieve a quality level close to the one you could achieve thru curation.In the early days of the web, everybody was using site directories because search engines were full of spam. Once google (and its pagerank) came in, everybody quickly moved away from directories!

    1. JimHirshfield

      Search engines have a hard time replacing taste makers. So, curation brings something very different to the table. All marketplace interaction is not initiated by users knowing what they want. IOW, “shopping” is different than “buying”.

      1. Julien

        Good point, but really, don’t you think we can also solve that “taste” issue with an algorithm which will take a given user’s preferences and past actions?I believe even “taste” can be solved algorithmically (or close enough). Fred’s post on the #discovery tab in Twitter shows that even an automated “curation” can be good enough 🙂

        1. JimHirshfield

          There’s a difference between discovery (Twitter example) and curation. Twitter shows me stuff that’s trending, that my friends RT, other users that are similar to users I follow, etc. But that’s to taste making. When everyone’s excited about tomato sauce, and someone steps forward and presents “sun-dried” tomatoes, that’s taste making…not birthed from trends, but setting (or trying to set) a new trend.

      2. panterosa,

        I agree tastemakers play a top role in curation, not only for what’s featured, but how, counts. Framing the item for the shopper is how you get better conversion no?

        1. JimHirshfield

          For sure!

    2. Richard

      Manual Curation scales pretty well for Walmart.

  2. JimHirshfield

    I think the more you want people to enjoy (i.e. interact, engage with) a marketplace, the more you have to curate; it’s another way of saying that you have to have a human touch. If all marketplaces offered were search tools, their homepages would be nothing but a search box.

    1. awaldstein

      I need an example of a curated marketplace that works. Whose brand is identified with the bookends of what is sold.Not just keeping out the junk or some basic categories but deciding for the buyer what is good?The line between a marketplace and catalog gets grey.You seem to be on this, so interested in your take.

      1. JimHirshfield

        Fab, Artsy…are just 2 examples that come to mind.I don’t think they “decide for the buyer what is good”, but rather decide what is good, that the buyer might also think is good. Fine line, for sure. And perhaps a distinction without a difference in the point you’re making.

        1. awaldstein

          The more vertical the topic, the more point of view and curation become the core of the brand then?

          1. JimHirshfield

            A safe assumption. “Vertical” is implicit curation, I think.

          2. laurie kalmanson

            vogue magazine is completely about point of view

      2. Anne Libby

        Or a magazine/catalogue/marketplace…the space the revived Domino magazine looks like it’s going to play in:

        1. awaldstein

          Thnx–in your mind what is the difference between a catalog of stuff you choose to sell under your umbrella brand and a marketplace?Is Amazon a marketplace in your definition?

          1. Anne Libby

            I’m not wise in the ways of this one — hope to log back in at the end of the day to go through comments and learn.As a consumer of design, fashion and craft magazines, I know there’s no pure “editorial.” Oprah doesn’t go shopping and find her Favorite Things…

          2. pointsnfigures

   is an early curated marketplace.

        2. panterosa,

          So excited Domino is back. They launched on a staff of 5. Met one of them the other day, a tired but super charged and excited woman.

      3. laurie kalmanson

        all big e-commerce sites: shop the outfit, shop the collection, shop what’s new

        1. ShanaC

          and they don’t really help you shop either

        2. panterosa,

          That’s what window dressers do – curate. Even if it is to sell socks as Simon Doonan of Barneys’ always jokes.

          1. laurie kalmanson

            socks and the cityooof

          2. panterosa,

            Remind me again why you don’t live in NYC? 😉

          3. laurie kalmanson

            Native NYer … Once and future

          4. laurie kalmanson

            born and raised; husband took a job elsewhere … i’ll be back home eventually … when the critter goes to college, if not before

          5. laurie kalmanson

            ps = put the bark game down in the breakroom at work and the geeks like it a lot. directed them to your kickstarter.

          6. panterosa,

            Laurie, That rocks! Thanks for spreading the word! Wish you had seen the board game in person.

          7. laurie kalmanson

            in the future

      4. leigh

        I think all traditional marketplaces are curated some more heavily than others. I always thought the advantage of online market places is that they allowed for niche curation to occur?

      5. Richard


  3. JimHirshfield

    I’m also reminded of the post you did a week or two ago about Etsy’s curated pages…I think they were brand complied? Fits right into this post.

  4. JamesHRH

    curate = social QA

    1. JimHirshfield


    2. SubstrateUndertow

      Didn’t the voters curate the membership of the US Congress ?

      1. JamesHRH

        political curation = dictatorship

  5. LIAD

    we’re in the trenches with that right now with isn’t a single binary switch. I posit both Etsy and Kickstarter curate aggressively. They both limit what is allowed to be listed and even if you jump that hurdle, to be seen on the marketplace by any meaningful number of people you then need to be featured in staff picks/new arrivals etc – all of which are effectively curation goto brain food on all this kind of stuff is now: suggests in this day and age:curation of content and curation of participants are key marketplace drivers and’Curation/Trust trumps liquidity’ – I agree

    1. awaldstein

      Great link–needed some original thinking on this.And good point–what gets into the marketplace is less important than what gets surfaced to the consumer.In Shoply, is Staff Picks kinda thing a function of surfacing quality or is there a pay to play piece as well?

      1. LIAD

        curated lists currently admin generated or function of most favorited by users. were discussing last week adding pay to play on site/mail-outs. as yet undecided.

        1. awaldstein

          I need to spend some time on your site. Bookmarked for the weekend to take a look.Love the link above btw.

          1. LIAD

            thx, the author is a v smart.His 3 step approach to marketplaces seems robust and comprehensive.1. Create new source of supply: (Airbnb/Kickstarter/Lyft/Etsy/Lending club – all adhere)2. Create new user behaviour on demand side:(sleep in people’s spare rooms. lend money to others, back creative projects, pay for ride share)3. Architect strong curation system to create trust/confer authority/quality.#WIN.

          2. awaldstein

            #2 is the kicker to me.I can say ‘who would of thought…’ to each of your examples and i’m a user of some and a believer in all of them.#2 is the piece that you can never know for certain on paper until you do it.

          3. Richard

            I don’t think #2 is about creating demand as much as lowering the friction (transaction costs). These examples were all part of commerce for generations.

          4. awaldstein

            I don’t think its either Rich. I think its about behavior.Could Airbnb existed 15 years ago, tech or not–not a chance. Culture has changed and new behaviors along with it.That’s the key for me.

          5. Richard

            I see your point, but watch out for becoming too US focused on your take of behavior.

          6. awaldstein

            I know that I see the world through the big NY bubble and sometimes, it stylizes my sense of commerce.Behaviorally (far eastern markets aside) I haven’t run into anything in Europe that isn’t or couldn’t be playing with a cultural adjustment here.

          7. Alex Murphy

            Its funny, many of these services existed in the BI era (Before Internet) in the form of catalogs and mail services. HomeExchange started in the early 90s as a physical mail service, where home owners in one country could exchange a week with the owner in another country. It just wasn’t as visible or as scalable.

          8. awaldstein

            Good point and true even though it was a pain.On one level its just more efficient and easier with a trust factor based on a more transparent world.But on another, like Airbnb or similar personal item sharing systems, this is to me a new leap. It’s not house swapping, its people you don’t know coming in and crashing in a more formalized system.No analog to that in the analog days that I can think of.

          9. Alex Murphy

            As far as people staying in your home, I can’t disagree. Although we did take in students and people visiting the DC area we didn’t know when I was growing up. But we didn’t make money doing it, we just gave it away.The closest I can think of was hitchhiking. We used to be able to stand on the side of the street and get a ride for free and give the driver a few bucks for gas. Can you imagine doing that now? Yet we can share our houses and apartments for a few dollars. Its not the same, it is different. But at its core it is sharing and it is a human desire … to share that is.

          10. awaldstein

            Really well said.HItchhiking–I did my share of it but I never considered it an economy of any sorts.People on airBnB are not getting a few dollars they are competing with hotels on a very real basis. This is business.Is it the need to share? The need not to waste and make real money as well. I think it is the later.But I do agree that culture has gotten more open and more reasonable because transparency does indeed make it more difficult and anti-acceptable to be a jerk.

          11. Alex Murphy

            I think they called it RBnB … “Real Bed and Breakfast”

          12. LE

            I agree with you re: airbnb.But I have to point out that when my mom was growing up she said that her mom would rent out a spare bedroom at their house [1] and that she was frequently rousted from bed (or something like that).And remember hitchhiking?All it took was a few well publicized outlier bad events to kill something like that.[1] To different people a night here two night there etc.

          13. awaldstein

            Airbnb has built an economy on mostly single or short term stays. Completely new behavior.Not sure how that relates to hitchhiking.

          14. LE

            “how that relates”A few generations ago people both shared a free room and they also picked up and dealt with complete strangers giving them rides when they had their thumbs out.The hitchhiking disappeared because of fear. An entirely new generation that hasn’t been exposed to the dangers (at least the way presented in the media) now does things, that are in the old way of thinking, were considered pretty dangerous. [1]So while the execution by airbnb is definitely a new twist people at least in the 1930’s and 1940’s (the period I am referring to that my mom was in) did the same type of thing. Could be a night could be a week. So I wouldn’t call it a “completely new behavior”.The scale and scope is completely new. But also the fact that in the past people traveled less but I would guess that you would just show up somewhere and try to scare up a place to stay for less than a hotel. Now with airbnb you can do that by planning in advance.That said I can’t wrap my head around the fact that airbnb works on such a large scale.[1] To wit re hitchiking:…And finally, he said, “a generation of paranoid horror tales of what can happen if you hitchhike scared the bejesus out of most people who might otherwise have taken up this unique form of ad hoc carpooling.”

          15. awaldstein

            Nicely said even though we disagree on this re new behavior.We agree that airbnb’s scale is amazing and unfathomable.

          16. panterosa,

            Ad hoc carpooling – nice!

          17. SubstrateUndertow

            Both #1 “the new source” and #3 “the curation generated quality/trust” would seem to be orchestrated by the magic in the middle ?

    2. Aaron Klein

      My wife attaches to new places to shop online all the time, and she would agree with this. The way I hear her say it: “I like shopping on X because everything I see on there feels like it was meant for me.”

      1. LIAD

        the holy grail is having a broad horizontal marketplace which spans numerous categories but which through clever algorithms and subtle user feedback loop makes each person feel like everything was custom built for them. A commerce version of the FB newsfeed/twitter stream. Etsy do it very well.

        1. awaldstein

          Tough to do.Marketplaces are funnels. What you put in it is who you are. Hard to be the branded choice across too broad a market sweep.

          1. panterosa,

            Arnold, doesn’t this get back to your dictum that wine is sold and not bought?

          2. awaldstein

            Could be part of it but doesn’t have to be.Some items need to be sold some not regardless and few do it well online.This discussion is more about discovery to me. How curation and presentation intersect discovery and personalization.Good discussion. Good ideas. A bit in the semantic weeds.

        2. Brandon Burns

          true in theory, but in execution, algorithms are less important than simple design solutions.people need to understand the method of how products are being curated and shown to them, so they can they can replicate the steps to find things. say i’m shopping for furniture, if i can navigate by mid century modern vs. bauhaus, or new england vs. the pacific northwest, i get an idea of how products are filtered and can go find things i want on my own. if its all an algorithm, and i don’t understand the system, i can’t go find things on my own because i don’t know how.the next great marketplace will innovate in experience design, not technology.

          1. awaldstein

            Apples vs oranges or New England vs Pac NW is taxonomy not curation really. Yup people need to see this or they can’t find anything.One producer or another within a category is curation. Different.I get your point but I don’t see this confusion between how things are displayed, discovered, transacted and how the merchandise is selected.There lots of bad design on the web, but that confusion is not the kicker to me.

          2. Brandon Burns

            “One producer or another within a category is curation. “True, but not different. A producer with a new england aesthetic is different from a producer with a pac NW aesthetic. that’s the difference between a sofa for martha stewart or a hipster woodsman. and if i’m the hipster woodsman, i don’t want to see things martha would like. my ability to get to things only i like happens when the experience is curated. and i just did that with “taxonomy.”again, these are experience design challenges. the solutions that will work will be crafted by experience designers who thoroughly understand them.

          3. awaldstein

            Hey–whatever gets you to a market that wants to discover you is fine.Not my way of thinking.And especially problematic as you are creating a value scale of one discipline over another when in reality, they are both key. A sure way to disempower individuals within a team who are all contributing.

          4. Brandon Burns

            inside of a project i’m managing, i know how to use everyone’s talents and backgrounds to achieve the best outcome, and make sure everyone feels valued. just ask any developer i’ve ever worked with.but publicly, on this forum that is AVC, i have no problem illustrating why design thinking is what’s going to usher in the next wave of powerful tools on the Internet. technology has caught up and the experience is the defining factor for most products now. the time of hacker-driven methodologies ruling the roost has passed; if that hurts, then so be it.#chiponshoulder

          5. LIAD

            agreed. important to remember though that average users have no time and patience. if we can even semi-accurately predict what they will like it serves them and us to actively do that. obviously traditional, searching, filtering, sorting etc are also available.

          6. ShanaC

            It’s a huge undertaking. From experience

          7. Brandon Burns

            Design “speaks” when done well. You may not know what a user wants, but you can use design to “tell” them how to find it.Let’s say you’re building a hotel marketplace with a main value proposition of “we get you the best option for the money.” You may not know how much someone wants to spend, but if your main navigation is a dual star-rating / price system, and you feature a room on your homepage with the headline “Best 4-star deal in Paris” then people who are looking for the best 2-star deal in Denver will already know how to find it.That’s the designer’s way of solving both the curation problem, and the tech problem of not being able to predict what a new user wants.

          8. LIAD

            that works when you are in a single vertical. let me give you a real world Shoply run an open shopping marketplace. anyone can open a shop and sell whatever they want. you therefore don’t control product range, quality, prices, etc etc. your marketplace inventory therefore includes a broad and eclectic inventory which spans categories, price ranges and more.on the buy side, marketplace visitors also span the gamut of tastes/income levels/demographics have no idea who is hitting the site and what has brought them there. you want to put your best foot forward obviously.your options :1.curate a bunch of products across the gamut of categories you have. showcase the best available (in your opinion) and hopefully appeal to the anonymous buyer2. work on getting them to to run through a short ‘taste quiz’ which once completed gives you a good knowledge of who they are, what they like etc. then allowing you to tailor your huge inventory to exactly what they have told you the likewhich do you chose?

          9. Brandon Burns

            i chose #3 — add a complementary way to could have the makers add at least 1 style tag (country, retro, etc), and have those tags feed into your navigation so users can find things based on their style. you could let folks shop by location, if you think where the products come from matters to them. you could offer the value proposition of “best quality for the money” and let people shop by price range, and then list the highest rated items in that range first and up top. you could invite the customers to be curators, and let other customers follow them to find things they like.there are many design solutions at the ready for skinning this cat. the one that’ll work lies in figuring out what makes your customers tick, and integrating that value system into the design of your also involves employing design thinking to solve the problem. 🙂

          10. Guest

            the ideas you mentioned. live on the telling you though, the nuances of curating a broad product base is harder than it initially looks

          11. Brandon Burns

            having all those ideas “live on the site” is not the same as picking **one** to be the **core** of the experience, and ultimately why people shop with you vs. etsy.lets say you’re a marketplace for handmade items, but your unique value proposition is “we help you find the best quality for the money.” that won’t just “live” on the site, it’ll **be** your site. you’d rearrange the whole experience — from navigation to results pages to button text — to live and breath that, so when folks visit your marketplace, they understand what’s the special thing you offer and, if they like the experience, why they should come back.i know its harder than it looks. if it were easy, everyone would already be doing it!i asked you earlier what makes you different from etsy. the answer to the question, if its singular and differentiated enough and relevant to your customers, is where you’ll find your experience design solution.

          12. LIAD

            powerful stuff. thx

          13. Brandon Burns

            don’t be afraid of a redesign done right.

          14. LIAD

            love redesigns.

          15. SubstrateUndertow

            The generic thing people want software to deliver is simplified CONTROL.Simplified CONTROL over life’s needle-in-a-haystack of contextual information and choices.The tipping-point trade-offs between search and curation are an instantiation of the generic breadth vs depth problem.As a user I’d like a better set of, on the fly, GENERICALLY-metaphoric interface-tools for tweaking that set-point trade-off between breadth/search vs depth/curation.

          16. Michael Brill

            What would be the best (or least-bad) example of this today?

          17. muratcannoyan

            “Simplified Control” is an excellent way to put it. Very hard to acheive but what a marketplace should strive for.

          18. ShanaC

            I disagree. ONce you hit a certain point in inventory, both past and current (and it isn’t that large) you need algorithms. Case in point: There are only 8,837 pairs of women’s shoes on the Nordstrom site. Nordstrom still can’t guess within a few visits that I am going to look at only a small percentage (only size 7, youngish, semi-cheap, and narrow-width). I would kill for them to do so (to make my life easier)People don’t need to understand how products are being curated at all. In fact, they shouldn’t notice it at all. They should in fact notice that they are getting great service (along the lines of personalization)

          19. Brandon Burns

            If you think like a tech person, of course you’re only going to see a tech-based solution like an algorithm. Because you don’t know anther way.If Nordstrom has a way to filter by aesthetic — hipster chic vs. granola vs. whatever — it wouldn’t **need** to predict what you want with an algorithm because you’d have a system for how to find it.An algorithm is never going to know what a customer wants on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd time. Algorithms are based on inputing data, and at this point you have none. That alone should tell people to stop wasting time with algorithms when starting a marketplace.

          20. ShanaC

            I’ve historically shopped at Nordstrom. They know me well enough to do retargeting 1x bimontly. on facebook.What does hipster chic mean? And who says I fit into an aesthetic? (I don’t neatly fit into one I’ve found) Why is searching via an aesthetic representative of me?

          21. Brandon Burns

            this response is to you and @michaelbrill:disqusI’m not saying aesthetic is *the* way to filter. its *a* way. i’ve given many others in this thread.but as far as aesthetic goes, its relevant to your Nordstrom example. it should go without saying; nordstrom is fashion, and fashion is aesthetic based. and using esthetic to filter is not about putting you in a box as an individual, its about giving you a clear way to find things. if i tell you behind door #1 lies woodsman furniture, and door #2 leads to sleek and modern pieces, i’ve already helped you get to something you like much, much far as how those aesthetics are defined and presented, that takes an incredible amount of consumer and market research to figure out. hipster, preppy, athletic, country, artsy, modern, conservative, sporty, etc. — all these words mean different things to different people, and you get to the right ones by conducting the right tests.don’t get hung up on the specific examples at the expense of not understanding the overarching methodology.

          22. ShanaC

            I’m not sold on that. What if I want sleek and modern woodsman pieces. or mixed pieces. At the end of the day, only the math knows for sure.

          23. Brandon Burns

            Then build a system that lets people search for items with multiple tags, like a couch with both a “sleek and modern” tag and a “woodsman” tag.There are many options. But trying to solve for every possible scenario will leave your experience disjointed and unfulfilling. Pick one thing and do it well is a popular saying — it also applies to experience design strategy.Clearly, I’m not convincing you. And by all means, continue the search for an all-knowing algorithm; I’d love to be proven wrong.But I’m continuing to reply in case someone else reading this thread can see the logic behind the design thinking tactics I’m sharing, and finds it valuable. I just can’t let a fallacy like “only the math knows for sure” be the final word because, simply, it ain’t true.

          24. Michael Brill

            There are lots of assumptions baked into this… like product recommendations are the same for all hipsters, recommendation algorithms require significant purchase history and there are enough hours in the day for people to browse marketplaces. At least in the space I’m working in, none of those is true.

          25. panterosa,

            Yes, they shouldn’t notice at all, but they should be able to ask if they want to change the parameters.

          26. SubstrateUndertow

            Maybe the dance between the two is like POETRY ?The algorithm brings generic focus and the design helps users personalize the curation.

        3. ShanaC

          Bwhahaha (did I mention I am dealing in the algorithm side?)

    3. Brandon Burns

      how’s shoply different from etsy?

    4. ShanaC

      Trust is a sign of liquidity. See: Housing crisis.Curation is not trust.

      1. SubstrateUndertow

        Slogan for an age of organically-networked interdependencies ?”In Curation We Trust”

        1. ShanaC

          this depresses me

    5. daryn

      Agreed. Rules defining what can be created/posted are effectively a form of curation. That’s valuable not just from the perspective of not overwhelming the customer and helping them find what they’re looking for, but for making sure everything the customer sees is of a high bar, whether or not it is something they are interested in. In addition, it makes the explicitly curated pages (like kickstarter’s staff picks page) become the cream of a really good crop rather than the few quality listings in a sea of junk.

  6. AlexBangash

    Communities and authentic marketplaces are inherently messy. There just has to be a way for the good stuff to bubble up.

    1. JLM

      .Value = making order from chaosYou get paid to tidy things up a bit but also to get rid of the junk.JLM.

      1. AlexBangash is great if the curation can be done by machines and not humans.

    2. awaldstein

      Community without a doubt.Not certain I know what an authentic marketplace is though as actually, marketplaces in most any example I can think of are not communities.

      1. AlexBangash

        Good point and distinction. Somer newer marketplaces have a distinct community aspect to them (etsy for instance). I would wager even more so in the future.

  7. JLM

    .Curation is one of those funny words that has evolved from its literal meaning to become something quite different.What is being talked about is really the evolution of marketplaces based simply upon success — best practices, a learning organization — success from the perspective of the customer and success from the perspective of the owner/merchant/platform operator.The 80-20 Rule is at work here. It may be more like 70-40 today with the democratization of commerce.Erecting reasonable barriers to entry — creditworthiness — is quality control. The balance as to how high the barriers to entry are is the art of the deal.What is spoken of as “curation” is simply data driven guard rails — getting rid of the riff raff on eBay to provide a better customer and seller experience. This also being the core constituencies and competencies which provide the lion’s share of the deal flow, cash flow and profit. Platform maintenance.The notion of delivery via mobile is important as mobile converges upward. Tablets are the meeting point in the middle between the expanding phone real estate and the shrinking laptop real estate.The “stores” are going to be on all the real estate but the customers will be on the most efficient real estate.JLM.

    1. Aaron Klein

      It always amuses me the extent to which people will spend more to avoid the riffraff. And such appears to be true online as well. 😉

      1. JLM

        .That’s the thing. If your time is valuable, then you are really not paying more, are you?JLM.

        1. Aaron Klein


        2. JamesHRH

          Almost every non-price driven brand or retailer or service provider operates on this premise,And the secondary premise ‘if you want people to think you are so busy or so important that your time is valuable, then you TOO should shop here / use our services.’

    2. JamesHRH

      I like how IRL adds up to 100% but online life adds up to 110%.Just kidding about the typo Hoss.

      1. JLM

        40% of customers equal 70% of sales?

        1. JamesHRH

          It should still add up to 100% though. Shouldn’t it?Lack of symmetry give me hives……. ;-)Honestly thought you meant 30 & it was a typo, but….point taken.I don’t have access to Etsy or other online marketplace stats, but I wonder if it is more 5% of customers driving 95% of sales online?

          1. Richard

            The Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) just coincidentally adds up to 100. It could have been the 95/20 rule.

  8. kidmercury

    this idea of an open internet is largely imaginary. practically everything except open source stuff is selectively open.curation is the dominant trend. graph purity is a term i’m trying to spread and brand as a new buzzword. curation increases graph purity in exchange for a smaller graph. right now the most lucrative innovations are those that increase graph purity. those that play for graph size instead of purity compete with amazon and google, where they will lose in strikingly embarrassing fashion.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      And just look at open source! There’s so much crap out there. That space would be so much better if there was some curation going on.

      1. Cam MacRae

        Open source is a licensing model. There is nothing to curate.

  9. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Life is a curate’s egg. The Internet is no exception.

  10. Aaron Klein

    The opposite of a curated marketplace? The wasteland that Craigslist has become for selling things like used furniture. My wife has given up – 100% of the inquiries are Russian scammers or link spam.It wasn’t that long ago that you could plan on getting a 10-20% discount on something you wanted to buy via selling the thing you were replacing. I see more of that happening on Facebook now, of all places, but it’s so non optimal.Who is building something verticalized to replace this part of craigslist?

    1. awaldstein

      So true.Odd about Craiglist that in weird verticals, it is still the best source. Example–want to staff your restaurant and need a line cook. Craig’s is the most efficient place.

      1. Aaron Klein

        Yes, for some job categories, it still works really well. It’s hard to gauge now.

        1. Vineeth Kariappa

          build a free advert portal, where you curate “good” categories based on user feedback?

          1. Aaron Klein

            I have no time, but let me know if you do!

          2. Vineeth Kariappa

            1 of the products that i am building, but not sure how to market.

          3. Aaron Klein

            You could do worse than posting a link in a relevant comment here on AVC.

          4. Vineeth Kariappa

            🙂 should have traffic of at least 100k + / day, that is an issue. Have mailed u.

    2. JLM

      .You are absolutely right on Craigslist and I think the deterioration is accelerating. Depends a bit on the city also.I used to buy a lot of contractor tools on Craigslist and was so pleased with the results. Now I simply avoid it.JLM.

    3. LE

      Bad from a sellers perspective but the fact that it’s a wasteland makes it good from the buyers perspective for those that are persistent and looking for certain items.

      1. Aaron Klein

        True until the sellers (like my wife) stop listing entirely.

  11. Ana Milicevic

    Curation (whether a human is involved or a clever filtration algorithm) is what adds trust to a marketplace.

    1. Richard

      If time is the limiting constraint to the purchase, curation is the differentiator.

    2. Aaron Klein


  12. laurie kalmanson

    this discussion is self curating and self selecting: who finds it, who tries it, who comments, who comes backmarketplaces can develop loyalty based on curation of what is presented: a small store for women in a westchester town has had the same manager forever, and she can tell you what will work for you when you walk in, and people go there as much to visit with her as to shopthe nypl is open, but a knowledgeable librarian helps people find the things in the stacksa knowledgeable sommelier … etc.

  13. pointsnfigures

    Markets always make better decisions than one individual. Eugene Fama was right. It works in financial markets, and all markets. Curated marketplaces cut noise and segment. Fred is right, the operator of the marketplace has to let things roll, and can’t become a puppetmaster.I have invested in three curated type marketplaces,, and They aren’t like an Etsy, but solve people problems.Becoming too centralized is a danger of curated marketplaces. It’s one of the reasons the Obamacare insurance exchanges won’t work.

    1. Brandon Burns

      “the operator of the marketplace has to let things roll, and can’t become a puppetmaster.”but you have to have a system that guides where and how things role. otherwise things get unruly, which is exactly the problem with marketplaces now. and in creating such a system, you have to become a puppet master — you’re just doing it systematically instead of using the opinions of humans.

      1. pointsnfigures

        No argument on standards. But, incorrect standards that create the wrong economic incentives drive participants away. At $CME, we traded for 150 years on rule 514. It had 8 segments, each was broad, but rigorously enforced. Different pits had different cultures, but the standard for making and reporting a trade was the same. I guess that’s what I was trying to convey.If standards are too rigorous, innovation and growth are contained. Centrally planned ecosystems never work as well as dispersed ones that happen organically.

        1. Brandon Burns

          I buy all that.

    2. ShanaC

      i say wait and see with the insurance exchanges

    3. Richard

      I dont see Centralization as the issue. If amazon started out where it is today, i question whether they would have become king of all retailers. Its brilliance (or luck) was picking books as the launch product.

  14. Semil Shah

    This is mostly the consumer-side. How do you see Stephanie’s comment with respect more business-facing or -focused marketplaces?

    1. delip

      Semil – What are some business-facing or -focused marketplaces out there? Do you mean something like Alibaba/ Ariba? I’m curious since we’re building one!

      1. Semil Shah

        Selfishly, I would point to Hired (formerly DeveloperAuction), which creates a marketplace for qualified leads for technical roles; Exitround, which creates a marketplace for M&A transactions between corporations and small companies; and Paddle8, which has three auction products as secondary markets for charities and art galleries/museums — as a disclaimer, I invested in all three. Another one currently out there is Asseta, creating a marketplace for used manufacturing and industrial equipment.

        1. delip

          Got it. Exitround and Asseta definitely sound like B2B marketplaces. However, Hired and Paddle8 seemed to targeting individuals, sound more like B2C right? I see that you’re also involved in Scripted, which may qualify to be B2B marketplace?

          1. Semil Shah

            Well, Scripted connects businesses to writers, who are individuals, but operating for profit, so….tricky classifications here! With Hired, it’s a marketplace for companies to bid on leads (for people), but it’s them paying the platform directly. Maybe there are more grey areas than I thought of!

          2. delip

            Got it. Thanks.Back to your original question – in the B2B space often buyers may have existing relationships with sellers. Those relationships in B2B are much stronger than in the case of B2C. So, there is a great possibility of engage buyers to curate the marketplace and sellers can potentially bring-in more buyers.

  15. Cam MacRae

    Looks like Eric Schneiderman is about to curate a list of his own.

  16. Elie Seidman

    Two thoughts about the word curation. A couple of years ago I was introduced to a “language consultant”. Basically, a firm that thinks all about words and how they are used. One of their main customer types are politicians; think of the impact on perception of “death taxes” vs “estate taxes” or “obamacare” vs “reasonably priced health care”. In an offhand comment, one of the guys said to me “consumers hate the word curation, it reminds them of museums and museums are boring”. I thought it was a good point – there is something overly fancy about the word and it kind of convolutes what is actually an old idea in retailing.I think that when online people talk about curation, they’re more typically referring to merchandising, not curation, especially in the context of platforms where consumers can put nearly anything they want on to the platform. JLM is fond of saying that every generation thinks they invented sex and I think we all now think that we’ve created merchandising. But retailers have been merchandising forever – fundamentally, it’s about making it easier for the customer to find the perfect item for them and making the retailer seem differentiated in the customers eye. The word curation makes it sound fancier but unnecessarily so.I see this as part of a macro evolution in the competitive bar online. In 1997 (and probably 2007 as well), the competitive bar was keeping the website up and running. It was an engineering problem. If the concept was good and you could keep the servers up, and get the items delivered, you were at or above the competitive bar (for online). Success. Contrast that with the physical world, by 1997, no retailer could reasonably expect to be successful if they just kept the HVAC running, the shelves stocked, and the lights on. That had once been enough but no longer. Sears, Kmart and JC Penny have been badly hurt not just by the proliferation of differentiated online players but also by the intense raising of the competitive bar offline. Nordstrom, Walmart, Target, L’Occitane, William Sonoma, Chicos, et. al. each in their own way created a better executed and better differentiated retailing experience and the market has niched like crazy. If you were a merchant in a moderate size midwest town in 1930, you could probably do reasonably well by having a clean store with a broad selection of inventory on the shelves and not much else. But by 1997. the engineering (structural engineering) of keeping the roof on the building and the plumbing working was an ante – no longer capable of creating any differentiation. You had it but so did all of your competitors. Good offline retailers (whether stores or restaurants) were already spending a lot of their money on various merchandising efforts including interior design, nice shopping bags at checkout, beautiful street level store windows, etc. etc.. Even in categories as mundane as grocery, retailers like Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Fairway have shown how powerful effective merchandising can be. I see the online world mirroring the evolution of the offline world in this regard but at a much faster pace. Online commerce, whether in the Nordstrom or Etsy model (both ultimately are a way for a customer to buy stuff) is less and less about engineering and keeping the lights on and more and more about creating a differentiated customer experience in all of its various aspects. Curation is a fancy word for merchandising and as we have in the offline world, we’re seeing a huge amount of effort being put into creating unique and differentiated shopping experiences. Just like we see in NYC restaurants. This is probably great for consumers and on the whole, expensive and margin reducing for retailers. I’d guess that this will apply for the marketplace model of retail as well; I see Etsy as a whole as an example of this. By merchandising to a specific audience, it took a niche out of what Ebay might have otherwise owned. Lots of parallels in the offline world where high margin verticals like jeans and cosmetics have gotten pulled out of department stores (e.g. Sephora). I don’t think online will mirror offline exactly but I think it’s a history worth studying.

    1. Dale Allyn

      I agree with you that “curation” is becoming a bit over-used. Sometimes it’s used to describe simple “filtering”, but as you say, it is often used to replace “merchandising”. The word “curation” has its place in the vernacular, but not so much as we’re currently seeing IMO.And… I’d have made my appointment on Sand Hill Road on time. Like you, punctuality matters to me. It’s a fundamental courtesy as well as a part of business efficiency. The KPCB appointment would have been rescheduled or passed. 😉

    2. LE

      Pity the young associate who sat there attentively listening to us pitch while Stephanie’s head started to wobble and then even worse when she was fully asleep.Great story. I wish I had that on video. Then I would overdub “wake the fuck up” after you banged on the table to get her to wake up.and I’m sure that one or two of her kids had been up all night with the flu or some other perfectly reasonable and human excuseIf that was the case it’s common courtesy to offer that at the start as the reason you were late and/or the reason you fell asleep. Called not being rude. And the act of apologizing (and even lying) shows you care enough to either apologize or make up a good lie. Like if someone invites you to a party and you don’t want to go you tell them “sorry I wish I could but I have my sisters party that day!”. Doesn’t matter if it’s a lie. Shows you care enough about them to lie. Once again as always in general.

    3. LE

      one of the guys said to me “consumers hate the word curation, it reminds them of museums and museums are boring”.Wanted to mention that this is all super excellent stuff. I do plenty of thinking in these areas in terms of the particular words used and how they can change buying decisions by playing with emotions. Words can be positive negative neutral etc.Separately if you have a chance watch this if it’s still on PBS:

      1. Elie Seidman

        thanks. I’ll definitely take a look, looks really interesting.

  17. leigh

    I mentioned to someone that they should use Etsy the other day, and their reply to me (And they aren’t particularly web savvy) was that Etsy is too filled with resellers of goods from China. I thought that was an interesting comment and given Etsy’s new policy it doesn’t surprise me.While I get focus when building a community (which Etsy did super smartly for a long time) I think there is a danger as they monazite their offering to lose the very thing that made them successful in the first place. The challenge Etsy may have going forward isn’t the change in their policy or business plan, but the brand and culture of their tangent alert — Certified B. Corp. I’m completely fascinated.

  18. Tracey Jackson

    Most shopping experiences are curated from the department store, to the supermarket, Otherwise you would find the dog food next to the endive.In my opinion most online shopping is done for convenience. It’s more fun to go to the Chelsea market, but I save time by logging on to Fresh Direct.The more online curation the better. I think sites, especially those that involve taste in some form, not Pet 360 where you know exactly what you are there for, need curation. They need a point of view. Net-a- Porter has been genius in this area of high end online retailing.Well curated, with suggestions you can trust fit your taste end up selling things many people did not show up to buy. Food 52 is doing a grand job of this in a short period of time. Thus the Bourbon Vinegar sitting in my kitchen.Kickstarter doesn’t need curation in the same way Etsy does as it is not’s really selling a product. Etsty has a bit of a souk feel to it now. It’s online co-op shopping. Which might work for those with a lot of patience. But it’s the same experience as going to the open Christmas Market in Union Sq. y You don’t know who will show up, but some will, and they will buy. You just cant be assured of who your consumer base it.Me thinks.

    1. awaldstein

      What you sell (and how you do it) is pretty much who you are.Companies and brands curate. Customers just shop and define who you are by how well they provide what you want.Curation as a consumer level term is just odd.

      1. Tracey Jackson

        But there has to be some order and consistency in taste, brand, price, etc. no?

        1. awaldstein

          Agree completely. The sum total of what the companies decide on is what we experience on the other side experientially.

          1. JamesHRH

            Great line from Denzel Washington (in about season 7) of ER:’ you are your choices.’

      2. Ana Milicevic

        What about consumer-driven curation like Pinterest and Polyvore?

        1. awaldstein

          There’s a big difference to me if its a marketplace which is a funnel to a transaction and a community, even one with media dollars generated from it.

    2. Brandon Burns

      “Most shopping experiences are curated from the department store, to the supermarket, Otherwise you would find the dog food next to the endive.”Actually, that’s not curation, that’s navigation design.*”In my opinion most online shopping is done for convenience. It’s more fun to go to the Chelsea market, but I save time by logging on to Fresh Direct.”That’s because the people designing online experiences confuse things like curation and navigation design and, thus, don’t create shopping experiences that are as enjoyable as the brick and mortar ones. But all that will change soon. It has to.*I pointed that out not to be a tool, but to illustrate the point. 🙂

      1. Tracey Jackson

        I don’t think that was “tooly” at all. Shopping is a past time. It is our national past time. And I don’t think there is anyway one can ever replace the experience of going to a store, hanging at the mall intermingling with people, trying on the new Nikes, just looking at everything and having fun.It’s like going to the amusement park, people play video games but Disneyland is still packed. Online changed media no question, but online is media.Every culture in the world gathers and shops together. But for ease, items that are not sensual, instant gratification, the web rules. I want the book NOW. Monthly repeat orders. Hanging out at home with a glass of wine and your credit card. It all has its place, but online can never replace book and mortar entirely.

        1. Brandon Burns

          You’re totally right, online will never replace brick and mortar — in shopping and many other experiences.The key is to the next great online shopping experience is to use the strength of the Internet — convenience, immediacy, etc. — and combine it with whatever magic can be borrowed from great brick and mortar shopping experiences, like good design, curation, etc.There’s no magic in online shopping now. At least there wasn’t before. Sites like Fab have shown a sliver of what can happen when you put that magic in. But the best is yet to come.

          1. LE

            online will never replace brick and mortar — in shopping and many other experiences.Let me point out a very important concept here to keep in mind when you say “never will replace”.Things operate at economies of scale.At a certain point if enough people stop wanting something it no longer becomes viable to sell to the ones who still do.An good example is blockbuster video. There were people who still wanted to go and pickup videos. But there were not enough of them to make it a viable business model. Same with B&N. Are there enough people to keep open those big box book stores? After all there are definitely people who still want to buy physical books. But are there enough of them?A business is like an eco system. Remove something and all the sudden something might tip and make it not work.Another example of this is the local convenience store that sells cigarettes. While I don’t know the profit on the cigarettes I do know that it brings people into the store who spend money on other items. Remove the cigarettes and the whole economics of the convenience store changes. All the sudden they might have to charge more for the hoagie and people will buy less hoagies and so on.

          2. Brandon Burns

            Great point. Last time I make a blanket statement like that. 🙂

          3. Tracey Jackson

            They didn’t stop wanting it, it became easier to get it through other sources. VHS went to DVD, DVD went to streaming. Netflix delivered. But the experience of seeing the film stayed sort of the same. And frankly it was a bore to go rent a movie and then have to return it and remember not returning them, forgetting you had them and paying a fortune in late costs.Nobody ever loved to rent movies the way they say love to test drive cars.Amazon has made book buying easier and cheaper. And not enough people buy books to tip that scale. So many read on e-readers.Same with music. Nobody bought CD’s. They downloaded. So why sell them? People still buy music, until Spotify….People will need, cars and clothes, cameras, food, and certain things they can’t simply stream into their systems. Those stores will stay.People love to go to Apple and play with the merch. Touching the merch is porn for some of us.

          4. LE

            I’ve mentioned this before but one thing Hollywood will have to adjust to (by “Hollywood” I guess I mean any content creator) is that since people are no longer shackled by the fact that they are stuck with the 1 or 2 flicks they picked up on a Saturday night or stuck in the seat at the theater it means that if something doesn’t grab their interest right away they will pick a different netflix and bolt. It’s what I do. In the past I would have sat it out longer than I do now. (TV was more like this which is why they have all sorts of teasers etc.)Recognizing this when I did videos of a relative’s wedding I did it as a bunch of clips. And even with the clips (which ranged from say 2 minutes to 30 minutes) I put some highlights at the beginning so that anyone who started watching wouldn’t get bored (since I am just filming I can’t control what I am filming).By the way for the life of me I can’t figure out why netflix doesn’t have trailers so you can decide the look and feel of something and whether you want to watch it or not. I’m sure there is a reason because it’s so obvious. Apple does this with itunes.

        2. LE

          “and having fun.”From “what I’ve heard” men don’t find it fun like women do.I know I don’t find it fun.I’d rather buy something for my daughters or wife then for myself. Because it’s easy and I get good reinforcement.Otoh I love walking through whole foods. I’m sure Arnold loves walking through a wine store (I don’t I don’t know enough to enjoy the experience). I used to love walking through and discovering books at B&N. Haven’t done that for years though.

          1. Alex Murphy

            Isn’t that half the point … finding the niche / collection that makes it fun for you?

          2. LE

            It’s a “built in” that men don’t like shopping [1] like it’s a built in that women don’t like porn [2] (like men do). Not sure there is a way to make either fun for the other.[1] Might have to do with the fact that women are reinforced for their clothing purchases by other women and men are not. Same as men used to be reinforced by other men with the cars they bought. And that still happens for sure.[2] Because they are not visual in that way.

          3. Tracey Jackson

            I know women who happen to like porn. I personally don’t. I prefer shopping. But if they had a few dressing rooms that were blocked off for porn viewing , maybe men would have more patience while shopping with women.

          4. LE

            I actually like shopping with women I just don’t like shopping for myself. I have good taste imho. And I have a clear idea of what looks good on someone else. I can even tell the type of hairstyle that looks best on a woman given her facial features.

          5. Tracey Jackson

            That is partially true. It is more of a female activity. But, men buy gadgets and widgets and cars and stuff like that. And I know many men who like to shop.And like you say LE, you like Whole Foods, Arnold likes wine, people like what they like and they want to see it and touch it and hear it and smell it and get free tastes of cheese and pasta sauce. You know what I mean.I presume most of us are old enough to remember how much fun it was to go to the record store and spend hours listening to albums! As you say how much time could one spend in a book store? Endless. Times change. Patterns change. But stores will stay open. I fear for the mom and pops we all must do our bit to keep them going.

          6. LE

            And I know many men who like to shop.Of those who you know who like to shop (for clothing) I’m curious how many fall into the following categories:a) gayb) metroc) have a particular reason why clothing and appearance is important. Job, dating, cheating etc. In which case that would be ephemeral.If you follow the money it’s pretty clear that the market says men are not into clothing shopping.

      2. LE

        Had a great reply to this but Disqus blitzed it.WHEN IS DISQUS GOING TO FIX THIS FUCKING PROBLEM!(Have I made myself clear?)

  19. Richard

    The consumer will tell you if curation is important (not the inverse).

  20. William Mougayar

    I like to think of e-marketplaces with the same parallelism that we have in the real world:BazaarFlea Market StoreDepartment StoreMallIf you take Etsy or eBay as examples, they probably started by looking like a Bazaar, then gradually became more organized, and now they look like a Mall.

    1. JamesHRH


    2. LE

      Physical mall uses $$ to curate. Because in order to sell in the mall you have to be able to pay the rent and there is also a vig to the landlord based on sales.This is similar to the yellow pages (and why that worked so well). You have to pay to get a display ad so you have to have money and be confident that the ad will bring you business. That’s a really important factor. The publisher is saying “how confident are you that your product ad belongs in a particular category?”. So the burden is shifted to the person trying to sell from the person offering the retail space.Malls are very restrictive and won’t let everyone in of course. But the biggest friction is the money and in fact with vacancy many malls (and strip centers) are letting in stores that would never have gotten space years ago. (Similar trend is crappy ads in print publications that would have never been able to buy space even if they could pay.)

    3. Richard

      Let’s not forget the importance of the NETWORK EFFECT when it comes to market places and their successes.

      1. William Mougayar

        how is it characterized for these marketplaces?

  21. christopolis

    disagree, marketplaces need well priced unique stuff, that is all.

  22. Elia Freedman

    I am surprised she didn’t mention two of the largest markets in existence today: iOS App Store and Google Play.

  23. Brandon Burns

    Curation and openness don’t have to fight with each other. It’s an experience design challenge. And the solution is to have a double filtration experience core to your product.Take Etsy. Their navigation is traditional retail: apparel, home goods, jewelry, etc. Now take a 2nd meaningful way to filter — say, style — and add it to the core of how your customers find things. A customer could easily get to preppy apparel, or country home goods, or punk jewelry. This is why makes for a more useful, fast and enjoyable experience for a customer. It **feels** like curation, and it is — its just done with design instead of my humans.The challenge with creating a good marketplace lies in the customer experience. The next great marketplaces will be created by experience designers who understand how to craft the experiences that customers are craving.

    1. LE

      Now take a 2nd meaningful way to filter — say, style — and add it to the core of how your customers find things. A customer could easily get to preppy apparel, or country home goods, or punk jewelry.Around this idea “style” is a matter of one’s particular taste. And it can either be a “built in” or it can be brainwashed into someone. By curation. By brand.Built in might be something you just prefer based on past brainwashing and repeat exposure (brainwashing is just repetition of something to me not used necessarily in a nefarious way).Brainwashed (not from past exposure) is something that you just get used to and somehow like because you’ve had so much exposure to it.Or secondary meaning like JLM with the Big Red Car or me with Porsche. Totally brainwashed.Brands: For example I got into a habit of liking certain things that Coach sells as gifts for different women (wife, daughter). I can walk into the store and immediately see something that appears nice to me. So I feel comfortable with the brand and the look. I do mean “immediately”. Only takes me a few minutes to hone in on what looks good. Takes a bit longer to buy a laptop bag because that’s function and style.Anyway, coach follows up with emails that seem to recognize the style of items that I have purchased proposing many other similarly designed items.Preppy Handbook (Birnback 1980) was required reading back in the day.

      1. Brandon Burns

        First of all, style is one of many ways to filter. I gave LIAD a price/quality model. I’ve used location examples. Etc. There are many ways to do it.However, we can’t shy away from the more subjective ways of filtering. Whether they’re “built in”or “brainwashed” into us, they exist — and, more importantly, people ascribe to them. Dior is not Anthropology, the Ace Hotel is not the Four Seasons, and a Subaru is not a BMW. People buy one vs. the other because of, among other things, the subjective qualities linked to style and taste. It’s just the way the world works, so it would behoove us to keep that in mind when creating marketplaces that sell these things.

  24. andyidsinga

    > Kickstarter states that “We never curate projects”hmm. I don’t understand this. I get the “projects we love” email all the time. also, see attached screen shot:

    1. Brandon Burns

      yeah, i know. i hate that.this is the thing: investors (fred included) don’t like / understand / value curation. or at least didn’t once upon a time; the tides appear to be them, “curated” was believed to mean human opinion trumped the democracy of the Internet and technology and, thus, was an undesirable investment. “curated” became synonymous with “unpredictable” and, worse “small time.” so the founders say things like “we don’t curate” and then send you “best of” emails because, if they didn’t and only listened to the anti-curation hoopla, they’d be out of business.this is the other thing: curation **can** be open and not human powered. you just simply have to figure out how to do it via an experience design model that makes sense for your product. kickstarter does a pretty decent job with letting you navigate in various different ways — from location to brand curated experience — to help you find project that are meaningful to you.

      1. Drew Meyers

        people want curated. there is too much crap on the web to wade through everything yourself.

    2. panterosa,

      What? They have curated pages. Like RISD Curated Kickstarter page.

  25. William Mougayar

    There are 2 other successful marketplaces in the curated category: Frank & Oak and Indochino. Canadian-based, but doing really well in men’s clothing.http://business.financialpo

    1. pointsnfigures

      Lots of stuff for lumberjacks in a red and black plaid? : )

      1. William Mougayar

        They are both doing very well. 🙂

    2. LE

      “Frank & Oak”Part of a naming trend that is in vogue now.”Indochino”Can’t help but think of 70’s newsreels on the nightly news with that one.

  26. ShanaC

    I’m not sold on her approach. Etsy isn’t curated as much as limited – ebay, almost not at all. Uber is not a curated marketplace, it is a thinning economic app

  27. Alex Murphy

    Curated by the crowd is the ideal. What is the equivalent of Backlink measurement for your Platform/marketplace/network?

  28. falicon

    I hear ‘curation’ but I think ‘personalization’ is the smarter choice…just wrote a post in response with more details ->

    1. Michael Brill

      Agree 100% on personalization… I think marketplaces of the future are built on personalization+domain experts+data. That is, once you get out of 100% subjective categories, there are always entities that are better than you at buying – whether it’s your lunch, a vacation, a TV or (as I’m working on) a bottle of wine. Why not empower those entities with user prefs/context, access to marketplace data to do the long-tail triaging for us?Social curation fails because of lack of personalization (and other reasons) and a marketplace-supplied curation is quite limited to having a single POV. Let me choose my experts, give them info and have them do the hard work.

  29. vruz

    Curation and trust trumps X is true, but it doesn’t work for 100% of the cases.More like 70% of the cases. It’s not mutually exclusive with discoverability to cover for the other 30%. How many times have you gone to one of these markets looking to buy something as a gift for a friend and you don’t even know what that is? You need a combination of both approaches.There are human factors involved in discoverability which are highly subjective and I don’t see them treated properly in most of these markets.

  30. jason wright

    curation? i’ll think about the meantime, David ‘Talking Heads’ Byrne (love that band) writes on the theme of NYC and creativity;http://creativetimereports….

  31. LukeG

    Curate on the consumer/demand side, rather than the supply side. Other than filtering out spam, fraud, and other overtly bad actors, there’s often significant potential harm in restricting the supply side of a platform.Here’s the example: any (non-malicious) person can use your platform’s tools to serve herself and her community. On the consumer side, though, you as a network decide to only feature or surface certain users/items/etc. The platform creates value for all users (and feeds the flywheel) — regardless of taste — but minimizes risk to brand and positioning.So you could use Etsy to sell sex toys, but they won’t be “featured” stores. Folks use Eventbrite for all sorts of events — and I mean *all* sorts; things most of us couldn’t dream up. But if you register for an “adult” event it isn’t fed into social recommendations, and most people won’t ever get recs for coupon-ing classes or knitting parties (despite how many tickets they sell). The marketplace gains users, revenue, and satisfied customers without risking mainstream backlash, while these communities continue to thrive.And besides: who are we to try to dictate taste? The web is wide and weird and deep; there are endless communities with near-endless variations in interests, preference, and needs. Denying it is missing opportunity.

    1. Michael Brill

      Although doesn’t that just put us back at buyers doing infinite filtering?

      1. LukeG

        From all of the data I’ve seen, your homepage (or the intent to visit a generic “home”) very rarely ends up being a primary initial destination. Instead, individual product pages are, thanks to not just SEO and social distribution, but the active efforts of that supplier (Etsy crafter, event organizer, etc) to drive their community to it.That first interaction (and hopefully purchase) creates not just users for the underlying platform, but users with clear, valuable, interest data attached. The ability to use that data to target personalized recommendations (and collect more data) is table stakes these days; combined with easy-to-use discovery features (search, browse/filter, “featured,” collections/lists, and social recommendations), you have a pretty complete experience.

  32. Elizabeth Golluscio

    Now that trusted 1.0 marketplaces like Amazon and eBay exist, and we’re starting to find them bland & utilitarian, there is (emotional) space for us to enjoy an “extremely curated” marketplace, e.g. niche Italian designers’ housewares at (Of course, it’s much easier now to find, share, and buy online…)Yet “From Italy, with Lovli” leverages a globally-recognized and trusted BRAND EXPERIENCE: Made in Italy.Curated marketplaces need to create such an emotional appeal and brand promise for themselves, from scratch – whether for vintage/handmade goods, peer lending, or home swapping. Certainly they can become massive, global marketplaces, but only if they create a brand experience (for both buyers and sellers!) that is sufficiently horizontal, trusted and *emotional*.

  33. sigmaalgebra

    Of course ‘curation’ is important — it has longbeen in art galleries, and a cookbook is essentiallycuration.Yes, a day or so ago, I saw and read the piece on’curation’ by Ms. Stephanie Tilenius.Once in a course on the philosophy of science (wheremy main physics prof advised “Get your Ph.D. firstand philosophize later.”), a math prof was giving aguest lecture, and the reading assignment had beenLudwig Wittgenstein. The math prof started,”I read the Wittgenstein material. Let’s forgetabout Wittgenstein.”Similarly for what I read by Ms. Tilenius.But curation is not always easy. The techniques for’curation, discovery’, etc. in my work look solid,powerful, and efficient from some good automation,but they are not promising for curating products,such as on Etsy, and that’s why I’ve not proposed mytechniques for such uses.Indeed, my view is that usually curation will bechallenging to do at all well at reasonable cost.To me the comments on this thread today looksignificantly good and much better than the thoughtsof Ms. Tilenius.

  34. Bhanu

    Consumerism is changing from owning “stuff” to owning “experiences”.Curated marketplaces serve the latter better.

    1. Alex Murphy

      “Consumerism is changing from owning ‘stuff’ to owning ‘experiences’.”This is one of the best trends going!!!

  35. Cynthia Schames

    Once again, the combination of Fred’s thoughts plus the comments here are a veritable master class.We’re building a marketplace right now ( and we have spent many hours wrestling with the concept of curation. In our market, the underserved Plus Size apparel shopper, the issue is less about narrowing the available options and much more about surfacing new and unique items. The problems our users face are around gaining access to well made, attractive apparel that fits–things that the traditional retail/manufacturing industry does very, very poorly for her today.We actually are building “Etsy for Plus Size apparel”, in a way. Curation is certainly a portion of what we offer, but as Fred’s last sentence implies, it’s possible to over-curate and stifle the organic, self-directed feel that has made marketplaces like Etsy, Ebay, etc., so incredibly “personal” for so many diverse types and groups of people.It takes all kinds.

  36. Jeremy Gottlieb

    Mosaic ( is another online marketplace where instead of investing in a music CD or another person’s debt, you can invest in solar panels. One project right now is on Fort Dix in NJ and this project is helping the Dept. of Defense reach its goals of lowering its carbon footprint and electricity bills. With 100% repayments so far and 4.5-7% interest on investments, I’m thrilled with it so far.